What to do in Montréal this winter: couple’s edition

Laure Juilliard

Laure Juilliard has been written for over 10 years. She specializes in lifestyle, tourism, travel and food, she writes as much for the media as for companies, agencies, freelancers or associations. Always in search of innovative concepts and good addresses, she is also constantly preparing her next trip.

Winter in Montréal is all about sparkling snow and light, festive gatherings and spending time with the people you treasure. And we’ve prepared a special guide that’s filled with wellness activities and holiday fun that are relaxing and rejuvenating in equal measure. So how about a dreamy getaway for two against the luminous and sparkling backdrop of the city? Get comfortable, read on, and remember to reserve your activities ahead of time and respect health measures in effect. Now, let’s get started on your adventure.

Old Port and Old Montréal

With its postcard-perfect setting, you’ll love the beautiful, snow-dusted streets of Old Montréal. Relax with a coffee in the sumptuous surroundings of Crew Collective & Café, located in the former Royal Bank of Canada building, and be dazzled by the historic architecture. Next, pick up some pastries, scones and sandwiches to go from the very reputable Maison Christian Faure or Olive + Gourmando. Back outside, browse designer fashions, curated multi-brand boutiques and tasteful art galleries along Saint-Paul StreetMaison Pepin and SSENSE are two amazing concept boutiques that offer not only a feast for the ears, but treats for your belly. Be sure to stop by Denis GagnonMichel BrissonRad Hourani and Sarah Pacini and Philippe Dubuc: the crème de la crème of Québécois designers. You can also check out the new exhibitions on at the cutting-edge PHI Centre, visit the Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology and Museum Complex, fall under the spell of the AURA multimedia show at the Notre-Dame Basilica, created by renowned Montréal studio Moment Factory, and delve into the city’s past with our guide to Montréal's French roots.

In the Old Port, gaze out over the city from a gondola 60-metres up when you take a ride on the Grande Roue de Montréal, which promises a 28-kilometre view in clear skies. Tis the season to set your sights on new horizons! Back on ground, lace up your skates for a twirl around the outdoor skating rink in the Old Port, open from December 11, 2021, to March 6, 2022, and be enchanted by the twinkling lights and music. In the mood for some “me” time? The chic Bota Bota floating spa, anchored in the St. Lawrence River, takes pampering to whole new levels with its restorative and reinvigorating water circuits; later, have lunch at the brand-new La Traversée restaurant. The Scandinave Spa Vieux-Montréal is another superb option, offering you soothing treatments, sublime design and serenity in the same package.

Come cocktail hour, how about a glass of wine with dishes for two at the lovely Italian-style buvette Un po di Più (designed by Zébulon Perron), or in the hidden bar of Restaurant Le Speakeasy, camouflaged by a fridge door. Be sure to make dinner reservations at one of the neighbourhood’s signature restaurants: Le Serpent, Monarque, L'Auberge Saint-Gabriel, Vieux-Port Steakhouse, Le Club Chasse et Pêche Restaurant Bar Salon, Restaurant Pastel or Graziella. Take a peek at the menus of BabacoolBazartPincette and Sauvage, brand-new hotspots where the on-trend crowd collects . Dance your evening away under the stars at Igloofest, back from January 13 to February 5, 2022, in a glittering and glacial setting.

Once the night revelry is over, tuck into bed at your hotel, a luxe cocoon amidst old stone walls. Enjoy the chic and cozy comforts of Hôtel William GrayHôtel GaultHôtel Place d’Armes or Le Petit Hôtel, some Old Montréal gems.

Downtown, Quartier des spectacles and the Village

Get your culture fix by reserving your tickets for exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the McCord Museum and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. While you wait for the upcoming reopening of the Musée d’art contemporain at Place Ville Marie on December 1, you can consult its digital programming. Check out the immersive experiences on current themes at OASIS immersion at the Palais des congrès de Montréal and the Société des arts technologiques. Be sure to pop by Place des Arts which features an exciting program of dance, theatre, opera and music this winter. Tickets are flying, so book fast!

The Great Christmas Market of Montréal will be buzzing over the holidays at the Quartier des spectacles on Sainte-Catherine Street from November 20 to January 2, 2022. Visit some 30 cute shacks featuring local and regional artists and their beautiful wares for the occasion or treat your taste buds to the delights of the gourmet food stands. From February 17 to 27 2022, MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE will brighten the winter season and thrill foodies and culture lovers.  

Ready for some holiday shopping? One of the season’s musts is the 18th edition of the SOUK from December 1 to 5, where you can go see some truly amazing creations by Montréal artisans and designers.  Browse this curated, unique and contemporary bazaar on either the 20th floor or the ground floor of Place Ville Marie. Set your shopping radar to the renovated Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, and revel in the luxurious finds of this tony establishment. Or you can duck in from the cold to the warmth of the underground pedestrian network and shop your way from the Centre Eaton, Place Montréal Trust, Cours Mont-Royal, Place Ville Marie to the Complexe Desjardins.

Feel like a bite to eat or a glass of wine? Indulge in the delectable menus at Renoir, the Foodlab, the gorgeous interior of Bar George or Henri, the delicious French-style brasserie Le Pois Penché, or high above the city at Les Enfants Terribles (au sommet de la Place Ville-Marie), at the trendy Time Out Market and the very refined Jatoba, Restaurant Toqué!, Restaurant EuropeaNacarat, Maison Boulud and Marcus.

Quartiers du Canal and Pôle des Rapides

It’s time to head to Montréal’s very dynamic southwestern tip for a stroll not from beautiful St. Lawrence River. Start your journey on the Promenade Wellington, a lively street in the borough of Verdun, which has oodles of good restaurants and best-kept secrets (though that’s changing fast). Be sure to stop by the magnificent Harricana par Mariouche atelier-boutique that pioneered recycled fur creations way back in 1983. Next, set out on your skis for a cross-country adventure that takes you nearly 20 kilometres on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Come in from the cold and pamper yourself with the steamy warmth and wellness treatments of Strøm spa nordique, a timeless and ultra-relaxing option.

More discoveries await at Les Quartiers du Canal, which are comprised of three historic Montréal neighbourhoods: Griffintown, Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri. What connects all three? Notre-Dame Street West, which is home to a plethora of excellent boutiques and restaurants. Our top picks include the delectable Vin PapillonLiverpool HouseJoe BeefLe RichmondPatrice PâtissierNora Gray, Candide, Foxy or Perles et Paddock. The Atwater Market is another unique meeting place, and its relaxed feel is just so conducive to enjoying a glass of hot mulled wine when it gets nippy. Even better, it becomes a veritable Christmas Village from November 25 to December 19, 2021: exactly what you need to get you in the holiday spirit.

Immerse yourself in even more culture at Arsenal, a private contemporary art centre in Griffintown. Starting December 15, it will be presenting the world premiere of the  multisensory virtual reality experience Imagine Monet: a wall-to-wall immersion in more than 200 paintings created by Claude Monet, a founding member of the Impressionist movement. An unforgettable art outing, guaranteed! Be sure to stop by 1700 La Poste, a contemporary art space inside a stone structure built in 1913 and inspired by the Beaux-Arts style. You will be dazzled.

Plateau, Mile-End and Outremont

With its charming (and sometimes impressive) houses and extra special vibe, these Montréal neighbourhoods are worth the detour. Linking all three is Mount Royal or the “lungs” of the city. From its summit you can soak in panoramic views of the city and get your fill of fresh air, while elsewhere you can go on guided snowshoe walks, enjoy 22 kilometres of cross-country skiing, skate around the free outdoor ice rink, go tube sliding and so much more. It’s time to get outside and play!!

Discover the Plateau’s bounty of urban visuals when you book a guided tour with Spade & Palacio. You’ll be smitten with their colourful and history-rich tour along Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Go ice skating among on the outdoor rink at Parc La Fontaine, which makes the experience even more magical with pine trees, cozy benches and twinkly lights. Window shop along Mont-Royal Avenue, Saint-Denis Street and in the dynamic Mile End where cafés, trendy restaurants and chic designer boutiques await. For brunch, lunch, supper or even coffee to take out, you have an impressive list of places to choose from. Start with the Alma, Bloomfield, Rumi, , Rouge Gorge, Santropol, Olimpico, Lawrence (a very popular brunch spot), Fairmount Bagel Bakery or Buvette chez Simone. Let us know how it went!

Little Italy and Villeray

Take a stroll and see for yourself why the very hip Villeray was just recently named one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods by Time Out magazine. Discoveries include the sumptuous Jean-Talon Market, which is festooned in cheery lights during the holiday season. Grab a coffee and wander dreamily among colourful stands that will make you want to scoop up everything. Next, check out the recently revamped Plaza St-Hubert for its refreshing mix of on-trend and traditional boutiques that changes up the shopping experience. Be sure to stop by the Montreal Restaurant Plaza, a typically trend-setting Montréal brewery that offers delicious dinners for two. Those in the know know that Little Italy and Villeray has a bounty of culinary delights on tucked-away terraces. You’ll love restaurants like Vin Mon Lapin, Pumpui, J’ai Feng,  ImpastoPastagaLou (Gus), TandemMesón and Tapeo. Next head to Taverne Atlantic, Vices&Versa and  of Bar Cicchetti, three sweet local hangouts. Call it a night with a leisurely stroll around the ice pond at Parc Jarry to digest your delicious meal, followed by a thrilling circus act at TOHU.

Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Est de l’Île

Go to the Space for Life’s newly renovated Biodôme for an mesmerizing trip through the ecosystems of the Americas that includes the tropical forest, Laurentian sugarbush, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador coasts and the subantarctic islands. If you have cross-country skiing equipment, the Botanical Garden offers three kilometres of groomed trails that connect to the trails in Parc Maisonneuve. Reward your effort with a bite to eat afterward at a neighbourhood restaurant like Les Canailles, Hélicoptère, Le Flamant, the Heirloom pizzeria or take a tour of the delicious Maisonneuve Market.

Parc Jean-Drapeau

Straddling two islands in the St. Lawrence River, this magnificent park is just a five-minute jaunt from downtown. It gives sports enthusiasts, nature buffs and culture lovers 25 kilometres of multipurpose trails to explore. Come here to skate or go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or fatbiking. Wander to your heart’s content along paths dotted with some of the city’s most celebrated artworks, including Calder’s Man stabile. Download free podcast documentaries on the mobile app Portrait Sonore to learn more about 15 public artworks around Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame.

Around Montréal

If you’re visiting Montréal over the holidays, we’ve got oodles of fun lined up for you. Here’s your guide to an array of concerts including those by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and the celebrated adaptation of the Nutcracker by the Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal. Need more ideas on what’s going on town? Check out this special holiday-themed guide for things to see and do. If you can’t get enough of artisanal and one-of-a-kind finds at Christmas, browse the city’s best Christmas markets. Get your Santa sack ready to fill!

Looking for a romantic getaway? Check out this post of the best spas, personalized tours or where to go to tap into Montréal’s creativity. With this curated list, you’ll also find restaurant suggestions for romantic dinners for two that go easy on your wallet. Lastly, to snap the prettiest pics of the city, check out the most Instagrammable spots here and here.

Happy winter discoveries to you and your sweetie!

Laure Juilliard

Laure Juilliard has been written for over 10 years. She specializes in lifestyle, tourism, travel and food, she writes as much for the media as for companies, agencies, freelancers or associations. Always in search of innovative concepts and good addresses, she is also constantly preparing her next trip.

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